14 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in North Carolina

Written by Lana Law and Michael Law Updated May 11, 2023

Authors Michael and Lana Law visit North Carolina for skiing in winter, the beaches and hiking in summer, and fun towns throughout the year.

With museums, outdoor activities, and theme parks all on offer, you'll find plenty of things to do in North Carolina no matter the season. Mountains in the High Country provide opportunities for hiking, biking, and swimming in waterfalls during the warm months.

The beach at Avon

Fall brings about an amazing display of fall colors and apples ripening in orchards. In the winter, the mountains come alive with the hoots and hollers of downhill skiers and boarders having a good time at North Carolina's ski resorts.

Beaches and coastal attractions tempt for relaxing weekends throughout the year but especially in the summer. And the entire state has a history all its own, from the famous flying Wright Brothers to the expansive Biltmore Estate and the WWII-era Battleship North Carolina .

Discover the best places to visit in this diverse state with our list of the top attractions in North Carolina.

1. Blue Ridge Parkway

2. beaches of the outer banks, 3. the biltmore estate in asheville, 4. waterfalls in north carolina, 5. downhill skiing, 6. wilmington, 7. battleship north carolina, 8. north carolina museum of natural sciences, 9. north carolina aquarium, 10. north carolina zoo, 11. cape hatteras, 12. chimney rock state park, 13. grandfather mountain, 14. morehead planetarium and science center.

Hiker enjoying the view over the Smoky Mountains from the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina

Nicknamed "America's favorite drive," the 469-mile Blue Ridge Parkway was designed by landscape architect Stanley Abbott whose vision was to create a road that was far more than just a way to get from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina to the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, with its scenic hiking trails .

Popular with motorcyclists and bicyclists for its endless scenery, the drive itself has incredible views of the Blue Ridge mountains and the surrounding landscapes. Along the way are hundreds of miles of hiking trails that branch off from the numerous pull-offs, some leading to spectacular waterfalls. Pack a picnic lunch and stop at one of the many beautiful areas with tables ideally positioned to soak up the view. Love camping? Numerous campgrounds in spectacular settings are available along the way.

The Blue Ridge Parkway is more than just great scenery - it is also home to several visitor centers and museums. In the summer and autumn, Mabry Mill (Milepost 176) has demonstrations that include grinding corn in the original mill, cutting boards in the sawmill, and the art of blacksmithing. Mabry Mill is closed in the winter. The Folk Art Center (Milepost 382) is open year-round and includes a gallery of folk art as well as demonstrations by local craftspeople, and the Museum of North Carolina Minerals (Milepost 331) has detailed exhibits that look at the region's mineral resources and mining industry.

Blue Ridge Parkway

Wonderful small mountain towns are located near or on the Blue Ridge Parkway and are attractions themselves. They make excellent places to visit for a bite to eat or to stay a night.

Plan your trip carefully. You'll find the parkway most crowded in October during fall colors, while summer visitors enjoy a more peaceful time as they enjoy the colors of flaming azaleas and rhododendrons. Between the months of November and March, be sure to check for weather-related road closures prior to setting out.

Location: Western North Carolina from Low Gap to Cherokee, North Carolina

Jennette's Pier in Nags Head

This 200-mile stretch of barrier islands is known for its fantastic beaches . Long stretches of soft sand line the coast for miles, attracting large numbers of visitors in the summer months. Families in particular flock to the Outer Banks .

Beach towns like Nags Head , Kitty Hawk , and Avon are just a few of the favorite destinations. Some towns, like Nags Head offer a better selection of hotels and resorts than others, but many people choose to rent a cottage or beach house for their beach vacation.

The area also is full of things to do off the beach. You can tour lighthouses, enjoy camping , or even see a museum or two. Learn about the region at the Outer Banks History Center and the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum . Take a day and enjoy a drive on the Outer Banks Scenic Byway .

Visitors to Roanoke Island can learn about the lost colony, visit a living history museum about farm life, and learn about the island's importance in the Underground Railroad Network. Other sightseeing attractions in the area include Elizabethan gardens at the Fort Raleigh National Historic Site and the Frisco Native American Museum .

One of North Carolina's must-see attractions is the Biltmore Estate , one of the top attractions in Asheville . At the center of an 8,000-acre compound, the Vanderbilt Mansion is the largest private home in the United States. The mansion has 250 rooms with impressive artwork, antiques, and architecture, as well as collections of vintage clothing and accessories.

The estate's gardens are expansive, including the Italian Garden, with its ornate pools and sculpture, and the Rose Garden, which features more than 250 varieties. The grounds also include the first managed forest in the country, a deer park, and miles of level paths and walking trails throughout. There are many dining options throughout the estate and shopping and entertainment in Antler Hill Village.

After you've toured the Biltmore Estate head to downtown Asheville. Over the past number of years, this small city has completely revitalized its downtown core and brought its historical buildings back to life. Take a wander around, and you'll find funky restaurants, eclectic shops, and a large number of restaurants, some with sunny patios.

Address: 1 Lodge Street, Asheville, North Carolina

Linville Gorge and Falls

North Carolina's mountains are full of amazing waterfalls , and many of them are easily accessible by a short walk or hike. Some of these can be combined with a visit to small mountain towns and other sights. If you want to spend some time exploring waterfalls and hiking, a couple of good options for basing yourself for a few nights are Asheville or Hendersonville .

Known as the "Grand Canyon of the East," Linville Gorge is the deepest and one of the most scenic gorges in the eastern United States. Located in the Pisgah National Forest, the Linville River enters the gorge at Linville Falls and drops 90 feet , continuing for 12 miles within the steep rock walls.

Trails to the falls are accessed at Milepost 316 on the Blue Ridge Parkway . A total of four overlooks can be reached on an easily-traversed 1.6-mile round-trip hike. While visiting the Linville Falls Visitor Center, it is worth the short hike (.3 of a mile) to the small but beautiful Duggers Creek Falls . Other nearby spots include Crabtree Falls and incredible views from Table Rock Mountain and Hawksbill Mountain .

Dry Falls near Highlands

Among other must-see waterfalls in North Carolina are the massive 811-foot-high Whitewater Falls near Cashiers; High Falls in Dupont State Park near Hendersonville; and a waterfall you can actually walk behind called Dry Falls , located near the quaint mountain town of Highlands. All of these are close enough to each other to be visited in a single day if you are up for the adventure.

Skiing and boarding at Beech Mountain Ski Resort

North Carolina's five ski resorts draw alpine enthusiasts from far and wide to their impressive slopes. Spread out over the mountain regions, each resort has its own vibe. The biggest ski resorts are Beech Mountain and Sugar Mountain , both located near the funky town of Banner Elk. These resorts top out at over 5,000 feet and catch any storms headed toward North Carolina.

Close to the delightful mountain town of Blowing Rock is Appalachian Ski Mountain , known locally as just App. The resort is known for its three terrain parks, which are second to none in the state.

Over in the Smoky Mountain near Maggie Valley is Cataloochee Ski Area . Perhaps the most old-school of all the resorts in North Carolina, this unpretentious place has a good assortment of runs and a very laid-back atmosphere.

Forty minutes from Asheville is Wolf Ridge Ski Resort . This small resort has one of the most impressive day lodges complete with three huge fireplaces. Wolf Ridge's gentle slopes are ideal for families and for those just starting out on skis.

Wilmington, North Carolina

The delightful city of Wilmington is one of North Carolina's best coastal cities . Its restored brick streets are home to buildings dating from the 19th century, making the area an excellent place to wander around with no particular destination in mind. If you work up an appetite or thirst, pop into any one of the trendy restaurants for a rest and recharge.

Wilmington is located on the Cape Fear River and has made the most of its wonderful location. Be sure to take a stroll along the Wilmington Riverwalk and enjoy this lively area chock-full of all kinds of things to do , including an IMAX theater, unique restaurants, and museums.

If museums and cultural events are your thing, you are in luck. Stop by the Cameron Art Museum for the latest show, or brush up on your local history at the Cape Fear Museum of History and Science . The Thalian Hall Center for the Performing Arts has a regular roster of musicians, comedians, and other performers; check their website to see what's playing when you are in town.

Wilmington isn't all about urban adventure, it's also a fantastic place to hit the beach. Some of North Carolina's best beaches are nearby, including Wrightsville Beach and Carolina Beach. Here you'll find soft sand, warm waters in the summer, and all kinds of water sports opportunities including surfing and kiteboarding.

Battleship North Carolina

Located in Wilmington, the USS North Carolina was the first of 10 battleships to join the American fleet in WWII having been commissioned on April 9, 1941. The vessel is well armed: there are nine 16-inch, 45-caliber guns in three turrets, and 20 five-inch, 38-caliber guns in ten twin mounts.

She was once the world's greatest sea weapon, and today her guns are quiet. To get an appreciation of the sheer power of this ship, wander the expansive deck to see the intimidating guns up close. Other areas of the ship are also open - be sure to visit the mess hall and tour the sailors' and officers' quarters.

Address: 1 Battleship Road NE, Wilmington, North Carolina

North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences

Dedicated to the natural history of North Carolina, this is the oldest museum in the state. The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences has two buildings: the Nature Exploration Center and the Nature Research Center, both of which are filled with exhibits, interactive learning opportunities, and educational presentations.

Permanent exhibits at the Nature Exploration Center include topics from the coastal regions of North Carolina to an exhibit that explores the history of gemstones in the state. You can also find sections that explore the habitats of the tropics and rainforest, where you can hang out with the resident two-toed sloth. This is also where you will find the "Terror of the South," nicknamed Acro, the only genuine Acrocanthosaurus skeleton on display in the world, which is the centerpiece of the Prehistoric North Carolina exhibit.

Next door, the Nature Research Center focuses on the science and exploration that are crucial to learning about the natural world. Exhibits here cover everything from the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean to the exploration of deep space and include the study of things as small as DNA to the massive science of weather patterns.

Address: 11 West Jones Street, Raleigh, North Carolina

  • Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Raleigh

North Carolina Aquarium

The North Carolina Aquarium has four coastal locations at Roanoke Island, Pine Knoll Shores, Fort Fisher, and Jennette's Pier. While Jennette's Pier is not an actual aquarium, it does offer views of marine animals like humpback whales in their natural habitat. (Check with the aquarium to find out what marine life might be passing through during your trip.)

The Roanoke Island location, situated close to Jennette's Pier, features the largest collection of sharks in the state. At Pine Knoll Shores , visitors learn about the state's varied marine life, while Fort Fisher introduces the freshwater streams, swamps, and open ocean of Cape Fear.

North Carolina Zoo

Home to 1,600 animals and 52,000 plants, the North Carolina Zoo is a must-see family attraction in Asheboro. The animals represent species from Africa (elephants, rhinos, ostriches, lions, chimps, zebras, and giraffes) and North America (cougars, alligators, bobcats, red wolves, bison, elk, roadrunners, and grizzly and black bears). Exhibits are designed to resemble the natural habitat.

Feeding times are some of the most exciting moments in the zoo. Each day, the times are posted online, so plan your visit to make sure you see at least a few. In addition to the wildlife, the zoo also features an array of hiking trails through the surrounding forests. Dogs on leash are allowed.

If the kids are running out of energy and need a fun boost, take them for a ride on the Endangered Species Carousel. Or, if they have too much energy, swing by the 5,625-square-foot Garden Friends Playground or take to the skies on the Air Hike Ropes Course.

Address: 4401 Zoo Pkwy, Asheboro, North Carolina

Cape Hatteras

Cape Hatteras National Seashore was the country's first coastal preservation area and includes the important barrier islands along North Carolina's coast in the Outer Banks region. Visitors to the area come for the beaches, but also for the unique wildlife and rich history. Bird-watchers can get a peek at the threatened piping plovers that nest on the beach, as well as the American Oystercatcher, gull-billed tern, and black skimmer.

The beaches here are also the nesting ground of several types of sea turtles, including the endangered loggerhead sea turtle, and in the winter months, you may see seals resting on the beach. Another favorite activity is climbing historic lighthouses, like the 1872 Bodie Island Light Station , which is on its third incarnation after the first became unstable and the second was destroyed in the Civil War.

The Cape Hatteras Light Station was first built in 1803 and rebuilt in 1870, serving as a crucial beacon on one of the most dangerous stretches of the Atlantic coast where the Gulf Stream meets the Virginia Drift, the site of hundreds of shipwrecks. Although it is not open to the public, the Ocracoke Light has been in operation since 1823 on the island that is also known for its unique breed of Ocracoke Ponies.

Location: Manteo, North Carolina

Chimney Rock State Park

Twenty-five miles southeast of Asheville, a 315-foot granite spire rises to an elevation of more than 2,280 feet in Chimney Rock State Park . Don't worry about the stress and strain of getting to the top — there is a 26-story elevator built inside the mountain, making the trip to the top an easy excursion for tourists.

Also within the park, the Hickory Nut Falls Trail is a moderate, mostly-level trail to the base of the 404-foot Hickory Nut Falls . This impressive waterfall tumbles off a flat ledge down a sheer red-rock face vanishing into the trees below.

Address: 431 Main Street, Chimney Rock, North Carolina

Grandfather Mountain

Hiking at Grandfather Mountain in Linville ranges from leisurely trails with picturesque views to challenging treks that could include ladders and reward with expansive, mountainous panoramas. Visitors can also learn about local flora, or catch a glimpse of wildlife. Plan a walk across the park's well-known Mile High Swinging Bridge , a highlight that has been in place since 1952 and offers 360-degree views.

Grandfather Mountain is also within easy driving distance of the small towns of Banner Elk and Blowing Rock. Stop in at either one and grab a bite to eat for lunch or dinner on a sunny patio.

Address: 2050 Blowing Rock Hwy, Linville North Carolina

Morehead Planetarium and Science Center

The Morehead Planetarium and Science Center , located at the University of North Carolina in the heart of Chapel Hill, has been a stop for more than 10 million guests since first opening in 1949. In 2020 the historic institution completed a $9 million renovation that transformed its public spaces into an interactive museum experience for all ages. Morehead presents a variety of planetarium shows covering fun and educational topics like black holes, the human brain, astronauts, and more.

Permanent exhibits in the science center explore the planetarium's proud history as a training center for astronauts-from 1959 through 1975, more than 60 astronauts learned about celestial navigation here, including the majority of those who walked on the moon.

Other exhibits present cutting-edge research by UNC scientists including Wearable Robotics, an exhibit that explores biomedical engineering through prosthetics, and Natural Navigators, which illustrates how sea turtles use their unique magnetic ability to find their way back home.

Address: 250 East Franklin Street, Chapel Hill, North Carolina

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Best places to visit in north carolina.

Adventure-filled mountain getaways , relaxing beach vacations and history-rich weekend trips – all this and more awaits you in the Tar Heel State. Between the state's stunning national parks and spirited cities, North Carolina has something to satisfy even the pickiest of travelers. To help you decide which locales are worth your while, U.S. News considered factors like scenic beauty, top-rated attractions and reader opinion to determine the best places to visit in North Carolina. Read on to start planning your trip, then vote for your favorite destinations below to help us determine next year's ranking.

Emerald Isle

Great smoky mountains national park, asheville, nc, outer banks, pisgah national forest, bald head island, carolina beach, hanging rock state park, wilmington, nc.

best tourist attractions north carolina

Emerald Isle features a small-town atmosphere fitting for a leisurely family beach vacation. Its 12 miles of pristine coastline offers travelers a variety of options for sinking their toes in the sand, including uncrowded beaches with superb conditions for surfing and kiteboarding. Plus, Emerald Isle is home to Bogue Inlet Pier (a prime spot for fishing), multiple championship golf courses and the Salty Pirate Water Park (seasonal), giving travelers plenty of ways to pass the time on and off the sand.

best tourist attractions north carolina

If you're looking for an outdoor escape, head to North Carolina's section of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The park, which straddles the North Carolina-Tennessee border, is the most visited national park in the country – and for good reason. Here, you'll find stunning waterfalls like 120-foot-tall Mingo Falls and multiple hiking trails, including the Mingus Creek Trail, which takes you past a slave cemetery and other historical sites. What's more, the park features winding roads ideal for scenic drives and photo ops, such as Lakeview Drive and Newfound Gap.

best tourist attractions north carolina

This dynamic North Carolina city has gained acclaim for its vibrant arts scene and microbrew culture, but there's plenty for every type of traveler to explore. Its proximity to the Appalachian Trail and the Blue Ridge Parkway makes it a top pick for hikers and nature enthusiasts. History buffs are sure to appreciate taking a self-guided walking tour of downtown's Asheville Urban Trail, which includes stops at 30 sculptures of noteworthy Asheville figures. And the massive, 250-room Biltmore Estate, built by George Vanderbilt in the late 19th century, is a must-see for architecture aficionados and romance lovers .

best tourist attractions north carolina

The barrier islands that form the Outer Banks retain their laid-back feel with locally owned shops and a family-friendly atmosphere. Here, visitors will find inexpensive vacation rentals and sprawling public beaches that are rarely crowded. Those trying to get away from it all can spend their days lounging on the shore or exploring the numerous lighthouses that dot the islands. Meanwhile, travelers looking for more activity can venture to Jockey's Ridge State Park to try sandboarding or hang gliding. Save time for a visit to the Wright Brothers National Memorial in Kill Devil Hills, where the world's first successful airplane flight took place.

best tourist attractions north carolina

Pisgah National Forest features more than 500,000 acres of Blue Ridge Mountains terrain that is perfect for outdoor activities. In its three ranger districts, visitors will find waterfalls, whitewater rivers, lakes and hundreds of miles of hiking, bike and equestrian trails. The Pisgah Ranger District is the section to visit to see the park's waterfalls, while the Appalachian Ranger District offers some of the forest's best mountain vistas and horseback riding. Experienced hikers and rock climbers will want to head to the Grandfather Ranger District to explore the Linville Gorge Wilderness.

best tourist attractions north carolina

For a relaxing getaway, take a ferry from Southport to Bald Head Island. On this slow-paced island, you'll discover 12,000 acres of unspoiled land, including nature preserves and 14 miles of beaches. Popular pastimes here include surfing and boogie boarding at East Beach, climbing up Old Baldy (North Carolina's oldest standing lighthouse) and looking for sea turtles, alligators and birds at Bald Head Island Conservancy. You can also hike, bike and kayak your way around this car-free island.

best tourist attractions north carolina

Visit Carolina Beach to enjoy some old-fashioned fun with every member of the family. One of this easygoing town's highlights is its vintage boardwalk, which features an arcade, an amusement park and ample places to purchase sweets. Plus, the boardwalk hosts seasonal events every summer, such as a music festival on the beach and weekly fireworks shows. For some fun in the sun in a quieter setting, head to Carolina Beach State Park. The park offers top-notch fishing, as well as opportunities to hike past unique flora like Venus' flytrap, a must-do activity.

best tourist attractions north carolina

Sitting just 30 miles north of Winson-Salem, Hanging Rock State Park is one of North Carolina's must-visit travel destinations. Jaw-dropping mountain panoramas, rushing waterfalls and abundant wildlife are just a few of the reasons to schedule a visit. The park also offers a variety of hiking and biking trails ranging from easy to strenuous, along with dedicated pathways for horseback riding. Other top activities in Hanging Rock State Park include fishing, rock climbing, camping, swimming (available seasonally for a fee) and boating.

best tourist attractions north carolina

Hundreds of TV shows and movies have been filmed in Wilmington (think: One Tree Hill and Dawson's Creek), earning this riverfront city its nicknames of "Hollywood East" and "Wilmywood." However, Wilmington is equally well known for its historical attractions and proximity to beautiful beaches. Explore Wilmington's historic district to see historical homes and museums like the Bellamy Mansion Museum, or take a tour of the Battleship North Carolina to get an up-close look at one of the city's most popular tourist attractions. Also save time for a stroll along Wilmington's Riverwalk, a 2-mile-long scenic walkway lined with open-air cafes, art galleries and boutiques.

best tourist attractions north carolina

Sports fans will feel right at home in Charlotte. This buzzing city features the NASCAR Hall of Fame and is where professional sports teams like the NFL's Carolina Panthers and the NBA's Charlotte Hornets play. But Charlotte appeals to travelers with other interests, too. Art and history enthusiasts can spend hours perusing the exhibits at Mint Museum Uptown and the Levine Museum of the New South. Meanwhile, outdoorsy types can take advantage of Freedom Park's trails and sports courts or try more adventurous pursuits like whitewater rafting and zip lining at the U.S. National Whitewater Center.

best tourist attractions north carolina

North Carolina's capital city may be known as a center for research and higher education, but it's also an excellent option for an affordable vacation. The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences and the North Carolina Museum of Art offer a variety of complimentary exhibits worth checking out. Additionally, Raleigh features several can't-miss outdoor attractions, including William B. Umstead State Park (with multiple lakes for fishing and canoeing, plus trails for hiking, biking and riding horses) and Pullen Park (a green space that houses one of America's oldest amusement parks). After working up an appetite, refuel at one of the city's top restaurants .

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best tourist attractions north carolina

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best tourist attractions north carolina


best tourist attractions north carolina

Chimney Rock State Park

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Home » Travel Guides » United States » North Carolina (NC) » 25 Best Things to Do in North Carolina

25 Best Things to Do in North Carolina

The spectacular natural history of North Carolina is enough to attract any traveler.

In addition, the state has museums, art galleries and theme parks. For outdoor enthusiasts, the state has much and more to offer.

Hiking in the Linville Gorge and skiing in the High Country are both fun and a great way to appreciate the state’s beauty while beaches and the state’s coastline provide an opportunity to relax.

If culture and history is your thing then rest assured that the museums and art galleries are among the best in the country.

Here is our list of the best things to do in North Carolina :

1. The Biltmore Estate

The Biltmore Estate

This private home in Asheville is the largest private estate in the United States and a top attraction in the state of North Carolina.

The mansion is situated at the center of 8,000 acres of stunning grounds and has 250 rooms, each containing impressive antiques and artwork.

After touring the mansion visitors should also walk around the gardens and farm.

2. USS North Carolina

USS North Carolina

The USS North Carolina joined the American fleet during World War 2 and was the first of ten battleships to do so.

The vessel, as you would expect, is well armed and has 29 guns in different shapes and sizes although all are a formidable sight.

Now retired, the ship is available for tours including access to the officer’s quarters and mess hall.

The upper deck allows up close viewing of the powerful weapons.

3. Morehead Planetarium

Morehead Planetarium

First opened in 1949, the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center has since hosted seven million guests.

It can be found at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill and is guaranteed to entertain with a number of shows everyday.

The educational shows are supported with a wealth of other fascinating information such as how to spot different planets and constellations in the night sky.

4. Linville Gorge

Linville Gorge, North Carolina

This spectacular natural attraction is one of the deepest gorges in the United States.

It is home to the Linville waterfalls where the Linville River cascades into the gorge from heights of up to 90 feet.

The site is a great place for photographs and there are opportunities to see the falls from various perspectives.

Several walking trails of varying difficulties are also available.

5. Chimney Rock State Park

Chimney Rock State Park

Another naturally stunning place in North Carolina, the Chimney Rock State Park is home to an extraordinary 2,200-foot high granite spire.

Even more extraordinary perhaps is the elevator within the mountain making the ascent an easy one.

Also within the park are several walking trails including a route leading to the base of the Hickory Nut Falls, which are just over 400 feet tall.

6. Grandfather Mountain

Grandfather Mountain

Grandfather Mountain in Linville is heaven for hikers. The area includes a wide range of picturesque routes for beginner, intermediate and expert skill levels.

No matter what your skill level, the effort of hiking in the area is always worthwhile due to the stunning panoramic views.

Learning about the areas wildlife and flora is a rewarding experience and the Mile High Swinging Bridge is as exciting as it sounds and offers unbeatable views.

7. North Carolina Aquarium

North Carolina Aquarium

The North Carolina Aquarium is made up of four locations: Pine Knoll Shores, Roanoke Island, Jennette’s Pier and Fort Fisher.

Jeanette’s Pier allows visitors to view animals in their natural habitat and can be contacted in advance to see which animals may be visiting during your trip.

Roanoke Island is home to a frighteningly large collection of sharks.

Fort Fisher highlights streams, swamps and Cape Fear’s ocean.

Finally, Pine Knoll Shores allows visitors to learn about the diverse marine life within the state of North Carolina.

8. North Carolina Zoo

North Carolina Zoo, Asheboro

Visitors to this impressive zoo can walk along the five miles of paths and see more than 1,600 animals.

The enclosures in the zoo are well themed to represent the natural habitats of the animals and range from the plains of Africa with lions and zebras, to the forests of North America which house bears and wolves.

There are also 52,000 different species of plants at the zoo.

9. Outer Banks

Outer Banks, North Carolina

The Outer Banks are a beautiful 200-miles of barrier islands that, along with their natural charm, offer fascinating history and quaint towns also.

The Outer Banks may not be around for much longer due to shore damage and that means a visit should be a top priority for tourists in North Carolina.

Wild horses, shipwrecks and historic lighthouses are just a few of the points of interest in the area.

Related tour : Outer Banks: Full-Day Offshore Sport Fishing Charter

10. The NASCAR Hall of Fame

NASCAR Hall of Fame

Situated in Charlotte, the NASCAR Hall of Fame is an absolute must for racing enthusiasts.

“Glory Road” features a number of historic cars.

There is also a hall of honor and a High Octane Theater featuring a large screen showing some highlights from the sports throughout the years gone by.

11. Contemporary Art Museum

Contemporary Art Museum, Raleigh

This museum in the warehouse district of Raleigh proves that you can keep up with the modern art scene even if you live outside of New York.

It showcases a wide variety of pioneering new art and design and opened in May 2011.

The museum is also well known for its educational and community programs.

12. Kings Barcade

Live Music

Kings in Raleigh is one of North Carolina’s top music venues.

They host a wide variety of acts from national stars to local up and comers.

When the music isn’t playing, there are also game nights to enjoy as well as comedy acts and other performances.

The bar downstairs, Neptunes, is a great place for dance parties and regularly hosts guest DJs.

13. William B. Umstead State Park

William B. Umstead State Park

William B Umstead State Park, which opened in 1937, is another area of natural beauty in North Carolina and another place for outdoor enthusiasts to savor.

The park features several paths and trails and is also perfect for hiking, boating and fishing.

The state park covers an expanse of 5,500 acres and has ample locations for camping and parking.

14. The James B. Hunt Jr. Library

James B. Hunt Jr. Library

This high tech library located on the Centennial Campus of the North Carolina University is a modern looking building and has the technology to match.

The library features the state of the art BookBot delivery system which is automated and allows the mighty collection of two million volumes to be housed in an area 1/9th of what would be needed if the books were contained on traditional library shelves.

15. The Raleigh Greenway System

Raleigh Greenway System

This extensive network of paths is the perfect way to travel around the city of Raleigh.

It is possible to join the network from almost anywhere within the city and the paths cover about 100 miles.

The paths are a great way to get around but also provide a unique perspective of Raleigh and are used by cyclists, runners and dog walkers alike.

16. Pullen Park

Pullen Park, Raleigh, NC

Pullen Park was the first public park in North Carolina and offers a wide variety of things to do and see for all the family.

Visitors will find a traditional and restored carousel, boats and a mini train for children.

For adults, the park has tennis courts, baseball fields and an art center for a taste of culture within peaceful surroundings.

17. Lincoln Theater

Lincoln Theater, Raleigh

Lincoln Theater is the place to go in North Carolina if you are a lover of the performing arts.

The theater hosts a great variety of shows including music from cover bands and local artists as well as musicals and plays.

The tiers in the theater guarantee a flawless view regardless of tickets purchased and allow space to dance as a bonus.

18. North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences

North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences

This impressive museum is situated in Downtown Raleigh. It offers a huge selection of exhibits and is one of the south east United States largest natural history museums.

As well as exhibits there are also labs and interactive exhibits to keep everyone interested.

The museum is also home to Willo, notable for being the world’s only dinosaur with a fossilized heart.

19. Mordecai Historic Park

Mordecai Historic Park

This historic park is most notable for being the birthplace of the 17th president of the United States, Andrew Johnson.

Also within the site is the oldest residence in the city of Raleigh, the Mordecai House.

The property is a great example of the plantations that used to dominate the area in the past.

20. North Carolina State Capitol

North Carolina State Capitol

The State Capitol in North Carolina is a fantastic and fascinating example of Greek revival architecture and is one of the best preserved in the United States.

It was built in 1840 and housed the government of North Carolina up until 1888.

Business is now conducted on the first floor but the building is also open for guided tours and it provides a great insight into both architecture and US government history.

21. J S Dorton Arena

J S Dorton Arena

The J S Dorton Arena is located in Raleigh and is a stunning example of modern architecture.

The building is recognized throughout the world and is a medley of engineering and architecture perfectly fused.

It was completed in 1952 as an arena for judging livestock in competitions.

In the present day, the arena is a venue for live performances and exhibitions.

22. JC Raulston Arboretum

JC Raulston Arboretum

This arboretum encompasses 10 acres and is houses a collection of diverse plants from all regions and climates.

The arboretum strives to research and evaluate all of its plants.

There are more than 5,000 species of plants to be found here and plenty to keep visitors intrigued.

23. North Carolina Museum of History

North Carolina Museum of History

The perfect place to learn more about North Carolina’s history is, of course, the Museum of History.

The exhibits here cover the civil war and other events in American history including women’s rights and the toils with Native Americans.

There is also information to be found on the first inhabitants of the area and the state’s sport hall of fame.

24. Marbles Kids Museum

Marbles Kids Museum

The Marbles Kids Museum is a hands-on extravaganza of learning and interactive education for children.

Five galleries and two outdoor attractions are housed here as well as an Imax Cinema.

There is plenty to keep young children interested here and it is especially aimed at young ones under the age of 10.

25. Dead Broke Farm

Horseback Riding

A great place for animal and farm lovers or for those who want to experience a little North Carolina farm life.

Activities available to guests include horse riding (private and trail), western style riding lessons and camping trips.

For the less experience riders or for children, there are also pony rides available.

25 Best Things to Do in North Carolina:

  • The Biltmore Estate
  • USS North Carolina
  • Morehead Planetarium
  • Linville Gorge
  • Chimney Rock State Park
  • Grandfather Mountain
  • North Carolina Aquarium
  • North Carolina Zoo
  • Outer Banks
  • The NASCAR Hall of Fame
  • Contemporary Art Museum
  • Kings Barcade
  • William B. Umstead State Park
  • The James B. Hunt Jr. Library
  • The Raleigh Greenway System
  • Pullen Park
  • Lincoln Theater
  • North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences
  • Mordecai Historic Park
  • North Carolina State Capitol
  • J S Dorton Arena
  • JC Raulston Arboretum
  • North Carolina Museum of History
  • Marbles Kids Museum
  • Dead Broke Farm


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